Federal Government Task Force Facilitates Immigrant Integration

February 20, 2008

The Task Force on New Americans is continuing to expand its initiatives, this spring offering a free web-based English class to immigrants through its website www.WelcometoUSA.gov. This class is just one component of the federal government's efforts to help immigrants learn English, embrace the common core of American civic culture, and fully become American. The Task Force is an inter-agency initiative created by President George W. Bush in 2006.

The Task Force's most visible achievement to date has been the launching of WelcometoUSA.gov. The website is specifically intended to improve access to resources for new immigrants. There one can find information on settling in the United States, U.S. history and civics, and English classes by zip code. In addition, the site directs immigrants on how to get involved in their community through volunteering. It looks to involve U.S. citizens themselves by further listing opportunities for individuals to volunteer with immigrants.

Other initiatives of the Task Force include publishing Welcome to the United States: A Guide for New Immigrants, roundtables to gather input on successful integration practices, and providing training and technical resources for organizations that serve immigrants.

Discussing the need for the Task Force, Alfonso Aguilar, chief of the U.S. Office of Citizenship, noted that "We cannot become a country of enclaves -- that's a recipe for disaster. There has to be a sense of community, a solidarity... In the end, it's about political and social cohesion."

Experts point out that the Task Force on New Americans is different from past integration efforts because officials are not pushing immigrants to give up their language or cultural traditions in order to learn English or embrace U.S. ideals. Aguilar has said that "Becoming American doesn't mean giving up your culture. Being American is three things: learning English, learning our system of government and learning our history."

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